Hugh Grant on life’s lessons and gentlemanly behaviour
Hugh Grant on life’s lessons and gentlemanly behaviour
We usually see you in movies with women. What was it like in an almost all-male cast? Was it fun?
I almost enjoyed it, which is a lot for me. But filming is long periods of boredom interspersed with tiny moments of terror. So, I never really think it’s fun, exactly. But until it’s done and people like it, then it’s lovely. But I liked Charlie Hunnam very much, and really, I had done all my scenes with him.
What’s your definition of a gentleman?
It’s a hard one. I certainly don’t think it’s anything to do with a pinstripe suit and a carnation in your buttonhole, good look though that can be. In my life I tell you, I think one of the things that would define a gentleman is people who pay me back (laughs). Because a surprising number of people borrow money and that’s it. You never see it again! But I really respect those guys who borrowed a few quid off me who actually pay me back. I think that’s cool. And I also think a gentleman punches up and not down.
Has money ever seduced you?
Oh Christ, yes (laughs).
When was the last time and what was it?
Well, money is lovely, because despite sounding the way I sound, I did not grow up rich or privileged at all.
You do sound posh.
I know I do, it’s confusing. But that was not my upbringing. So, money has been lovely, and it shouldn’t be underestimated. Not to have to worry about gas bills is massive and it remains massive all these years later. But I will say one of the few things I’ve learned in life is that if you do something just for the money, it comes back to bite you. Every time I’ve done that where I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t really like this project’, or, ‘I don’t approve of it’, money does hurt you in the end. It might not be immediately, but in a year or two, that’s what I found.
What was it like doing the cockney accent?
Well, yes, I am doing a big accent. I was nervous about that. I’ve always done accents, I used to make a living doing them before I was in films. I used to make radio commercials doing silly voices. So, I always knew I sort of had that ability, but I thought when this project came up, I said to Guy [Ritchie], ‘I don’t know, after all these decades could I get away with it?’ And he said, ‘I think you can.’ So, I thought about it for a lot and then I started recording myself on my iPhone and looking at it and thinking, ‘Ah, that’s shit.’ And then I’d go, ‘Well, maybe it’s not.’ I sent it to him, and he said, ‘That’s going to work, that’s going to work.’ And hopefully it does. But it certainly made me very nervous.
When you get to Charlie Hunnam’s house in the movie, you’re like the bad guest who won’t leave. Have you ever had a guest like that?
Yeah for sure (laughs) and I’ve been that guest without realising it. I was staying with my brother once and his family, and I thought, ‘This is very nice.’ And then right about in the middle of the second week, my sister-in-law after a bottle of rosé, said ‘Why did you have to stay so long?’ It was devastating.
And what did your brother say?
He was deeply embarrassed. But I left and have never been back (laughs).
You’re turning 60 this year – what life lessons have you learned?
I don’t know, the one about money is quite good, don’t do anything for the money. There’s that thing in the Bible that says you have to build your house on rock, not on sand. I think that’s a good lesson. And I think the other lesson, which I try to preach to my children, is that you have got to have some discipline and work through the hard bits. It’s so easy to shy away from the hard bits and then you never achieve anything, and if you never achieve anything, you never have any self-esteem. And if you never have any self-esteem, you are quite a toxic person, I’ve come across that. A lot of people that have inherited money for instance, they think, ‘Why do I feel uncomfortable in this environment?’ And I think it’s because they have never really achieved enough. And if you don’t achieve then you don’t have self-esteem and then you get nasty. So, I think you have got to work. But I don’t know how to make my spoilt children do that, (laughs) with the whip maybe.
As people get older they often shed certain attitudes or fears – what about you?
Probably hair. But not pounds.
If someone had just three hours in London and they’d never been there before, what would you recommend they do?
Well, I think it’s very important to see a football match because this is one of the few times the British are happy, or animated. So, I would recommend going to a Fulham match, of course, because they are the best team in London. I think there’s a very good ghost tour, which I went on, because one of my children was obsessed with ghosts. I shouldn’t have done it, it’s made them much worse, they never sleep (laughs).
You’re married to a Swede – how is your Swedish coming along?
I can say (speaks in Swedish) and that means, “Watch out for the dog shit”, and that’s really pretty much all you need with a small child in London. My children hate it when I speak Swedish.
I don’t know. It’s like when I sing or dance, they cry (laughs). They plead with me to stop. And of course, the other thing I know are terrible Swedish words, which my wife uses on the tennis court. We have impunity at the very posh Queen’s Tennis Club in London. She can get away with it because no one knows what she’s saying. But I have now looked up these words and they are horrific! (laughs)
The Gentlemen is in theatres now.